Supporting Over-Excited Greyhounds on a Walk: 1 Key Training Technique

June 13, 2023 14:57
At GAP NSW, we recommend one wonderful technique to support greyhounds on a walk -
the technique is teaching your dog to sniff the ground around them on cue. 

The length of time to learn this technique depends on the dog, their emotional resilience, age, and a variety of factors.

Fortunately, because foraging behavior is a natural behavior, it is something that most greyhounds are able to learn relatively quickly.

How to Train “Sniff on Command”

To train your dog to sniff on command, follow these steps:
  1. Begin in a quiet environment: Start training in a calm and familiar setting at home. Avoid attempting to teach the behavior when there are already exciting distractions around, as it may be challenging for your dog to be able to focus on sniffing.
  2. Establish the association: Scatter treats in the grass or on the floor indoors. If your dog is not accustomed to this activity, simply scatter the treats without any additional cues. Perform this exercise at the same time every day to establish a routine.
  3. Familiarise your dog: Once your dog becomes comfortable searching for treats in the grass or indoors, you can start pairing the activity with a verbal cue. "Find it" is a straightforward and commonly used cue. Say the cue just before scattering the treats.
  4. Gradually introduce busier environments: As your dog learns to associate the cue with the treat-searching behavior, gradually introduce more distracting and busy environments. Start by using the cue while your dog is on a leash, ensuring they remain attentive to the command.
  5. Test the behaviour: A good indication that your dog has understood the association is when they begin sniffing the ground and searching even before you scatter the treats upon hearing the cue. Once your dog consistently responds to the cue in various environments, the behaviour is well-established.
Remember to be patient and consistent throughout the training process. Positive reinforcement, such as praising and rewarding your dog with treats when they successfully perform the behavior, can help reinforce the desired response!

What does this training technique do to address dogs getting overly excited during walks?

While the technique's application is not exclusive to walks, training your dog to sniff on command offers various benefits.

It helps redirect their focus to the immediate surroundings, particularly when there are unfamiliar objects or situations at a distance that may make your dog uncomfortable. By encouraging them to sniff the ground, it engages their senses and promotes a calmer state.

Sniffing has several positive effects on dogs. 

  1. Firstly, it helps them regulate their breathing and heart rate as they explore different scents in their environment. 
  2. Secondly, it encourages what we call low-intensity seeking behaviour. This behaviour involves dogs calmly searching for food or resources without engaging in high-energy activities like chasing or grabbing. This means we don't need to be concerned about the dog becoming overly excited or their arousal levels becoming too high. When dogs are excessively excited, their physiological activation increases to the point where they struggle to think and learn effectively. 
By promoting sniffing, we can avoid this issue and ensure dogs remain in a relaxed and receptive state for learning.

When Should This Technique Be Used?

There are several real-world examples of when this great technique can be put into practice:
  • This technique is useful when you need to redirect your dog's attention away from something they're uncomfortable with and onto their surroundings.
  • If your dog is uneasy around other dogs during walks, you can use the "find it" command to shift their focus to the ground in front of them. This helps when there's a dog at a distance, allowing your dog to sniff the ground until the other dog moves away.
  • Another scenario is when your dog is overly excited after getting out of the car and wants to run and explore the park. Using the sniffing technique can help calm them down by lowering their heart rate and respiration rate. It's an effective way to manage their anticipation and excitement.

Can the "Find It" Training Technique be Used for Greyhounds of All Ages?

Yes, absolutely. 

The advantage of teaching the "find it" technique is that it taps into something that already comes naturally to dogs.

Some training techniques, such as putting toys away, can be complex and may not come naturally to all breeds. However, every dog has a natural instinct for sniffing and foraging. Therefore, the "find it" technique is a straightforward and effective method that can be easily trained for dogs of all ages.

How can this Training Technique be Modified for dogs with Different Levels of Over-Excitement? 

If your dog is particularly prone to being excited, it's a good idea to always pair this technique with high-value treats because you need to be able to get the sniffing behaviour reliable.

If it's a situation where your dog is more likely to be excited (i.e. their favourite toy comes out), you need to be able to get their attention reliably on sniffing.

High-value treats are more likely to encourage the behaviour because they'll have a scent that is more likely to encourage sniffing.

Interested in Meeting Your New Best Mate?

At GAP NSW, we’re committed to the successful rehoming of retired greyhounds. So, why not say hello to a few potential new best mates?
We look forward to your enquiry and supporting your journey with your new companion greyhound.